What drug trafficking allegations was CIA aware of, and when, involving Northern Front Contras? How did CIA respond to this information, and how was this information shared with other U.S. Government entities?
Background. Adolfo Calero Portocarrero, an American-educated businessman and politician, was originally active--as were many other Nicaraguan political figures who went on to become Contra leaders--in working to bring down the regime of Anastasio Somoza. After Somoza's ouster in 1979, U.S. Embassy officials reported from Managua that Calero initially sought to work with the FSLN Government, claiming that all sectors needed to contribute to the political and economic reconstruction of Nicaragua. However, Calero had publicly criticized the Sandinistas by late 1980 for "setting themselves up as gods." In December 1982, he left Nicaragua in protest of FSLN policies.
On leaving Nicaragua, Calero joined the FDN and became a member of its leadership. In January 1983, he traveled to Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia to seek support. That same month, he helped draft a FDN peace initiative calling for elections, pluralism, nonalignment in foreign affairs, and respect for individual and human rights. Calero later became President and Commander-in-Chief of the FDN, the preeminent Contra group that pursued resistance activities on the Northern Front from bases in Honduras.
When pressures to unify the Contra forces led to the creation of UNO in mid-1985, Calero--along with Arturo Cruz and Alfonso Robelo--was named to share authority and decision making control of the military effort. Disputes with Cruz and Robelo led to Calero's resignation from the UNO leadership in early 1987. However, with the founding of a successor coalition, the Nicaraguan Resistance (RN), in May of that year, Calero was restored to a senior leadership position. In that position, Calero differed with Enrique Bermudez, the RN military commander, over strategies for cease fire negotiations.
Allegations of Drug Trafficking. A number of Central American publications and public figures mentioned the Northern Contra Front forces in the context of broad-based charges of drug trafficking by the Contras. A cable informed Headquarters in February 1988 that a Nicaraguan exile had alleged at a meeting in Miami, Florida, that Enrique Bermudez, Adolfo Calero, Aristides Sanchez, and another individual were all involved in drug smuggling. The purpose of the meeting in Miami at which this allegation was made was to invite former Nicaraguan National Guard members to return to Nicaragua under a Sandinista amnesty program. The Nicaraguan exile reportedly offered no substantiation for his allegations. According to the cable, he had been characterized by both a U.S. law enforcement source and CIA as mentally unstable.
CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. According to a February 1988 Headquarters cable, CIA records were searched in February 1988 regarding the Nicaraguan exile in response to his allegations that Calero and other UNO/FDN leaders had engaged in drug smuggling. The cable indicated that a number of sources characterized him as unstable, a swindler and as having a reputation of being a drug dealer in Nicaragua before leaving that country in 1983.
Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. In February 1988, the information contained in the February 1988 cable concerning the drug trafficking allegation by the Nicaraguan exile against Calero and other Contra leaders was forwarded by CIA to the FBI.
No record has been found to indicate that the allegation received by CIA regarding Calero and drug trafficking was reported to Congress.
Background. Enrique Bermudez Varela served as an officer in the Nicaraguan National Guard Corps of Engineers from 1952-1979. During his military career, he was a student at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Inter-American Defense College. After completing his study at the Inter-American Defense College, Bermudez was assigned as the Nicaraguan Defense Attaché in Washington from 1976 to 1979. During that period, Bermudez was openly critical of the Somoza Regime and its General Staff.
Subsequent to the Sandinistas' consolidation of control in Nicaragua as the Government of National Reconstruction (GRN), Bermudez was identified in the first half of 1980 as the "War Chief" of the anti-Sandinista organization, Democratic Armed Force. In the spring of 1981, Bermudez was identified as the Chief of the Military arm of the Nicaraguan Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ADREN), the 15th of September Legion. In September 1981, the ADREN merged with the Nicaraguan Democratic Union (UDN) and formed the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN).
Bermudez was ousted as the FDN's Chief of General Staff in late 1982 as part of the restructuring of the FDN, and he was then appointed the "Political-Military Coordinator" of the FDN Directorate with responsibility for oversight of the FDN's military organization. Nevertheless, he remained the de facto leader of the FDN military organization. In January 1983, he identified himself as the FDN directorate member responsible for military affairs and effectively the "Commander-in-Chief" of FDN forces. In February 1984, the FDN General Staff was abolished and replaced by a combined Civil-Military command with Adolfo Calero as Commander-in-Chief and Enrique Bermudez as Chief, Military Affairs.
Throughout the 1980s, Bermudez was dogged by attacks on his leadership and by accusations that he was a Somoza supporter and that he had attempted to recruit former Nicaraguan National Guard personnel into the FDN. Bermudez was finally ousted by the Army of the Nicaraguan Resistance (ERN)/North General Staff from his position as the resistance's senior military leader in February 1990.
On February 16, 1991, Bermudez was assassinated in Managua, Nicaragua. Speculation was widespread that he was killed by Sandinista supporters.
Allegations of Drug Trafficking. A September 1981 cable informed Headquarters that reportedly Bermudez had advised the ADREN leadership against engaging in drug smuggling to the United States, but that a decision had been made to pursue such activities to finance ADREN's anti-Sandinista operations. Reportedly, as a result, an initial effort was made in July 1981 when an ADREN member carried cocaine to Miami aboard a commercial flight. Although Bermudez was the ADREN Military Chief and a member of the ADREN leadership, there was no indication that he was directly involved in such activities.
A February 1988 cable informed Headquarters that a Nicaraguan exile had alleged at a meeting in Miami, Florida that Enrique Bermudez, Adolfo Calero, Aristides Sanchez, and another individual were all involved in drug smuggling. The purpose of the meeting in Miami at which this allegation was made was to invite former Nicaraguan National Guard members to return to Nicaragua under a Sandinista amnesty program. The Nicaraguan exile reportedly offered no substantiation for the allegation that any of the named Contra leaders were involved in drug smuggling. Both a U.S. law enforcement source and CIA had characterized him as mentally unstable.
CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. The September 1981 allegation that the ADREN had decided to smuggle drugs into the United States to finance its activities was disseminated by CIA on September 14, 1981 in a cable to the State Department; DIA; NSA; Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Southern Command; and U.S. Ambassadors in Central America. The information also was disseminated to DEA, FBI, Customs, Treasury, and Intelligence Community agencies on October 28, 1981 as an Intelligence Information Report.
In February 1982, CIA Headquarters responded to a name trace request with a cable stating that Enrique Bermudez "is not associated with the 'renegade' 15th of September Legion members who are probably using their acquaintance with him as a means to gain some respectability." The 15th of September Legion was the designation of the military wing of the ADREN and was described by the Headquarters cable as engaged in criminal activities, including drug smuggling.
A CIA records search was conducted in February 1988 regarding the Nicaraguan exile in response to his allegations that month that Bermudez and other UNO/FDN leaders had engaged in drug smuggling. The search, according to a February 1988 Headquarters cable, indicated that a number of sources characterized him as unstable, a swindler and as having a reputation of being a drug dealer in Nicaragua before leaving that country in 1983.
Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. As mentioned earlier, a CIA intelligence report entitled "ADREN Operations to Smuggle Narcotics Into the U.S. to Finance Its Anti-Sandinista Activities" was disseminated to DEA, FBI, Customs Service, Treasury, and Intelligence Community agencies on October 28, 1981. The report related the allegation that the ADREN leadership intended to smuggle drugs into the United States to finance its activities against the GRN. The report also included the allegation that, in the initial effort in July 1981, cocaine was carried to Miami aboard a commercial flight by an ADREN member. The information had been shared with the State Department, DIA, NSA, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Ambassadors in Central America by cable on September 14, 1981.
On February 9, 1988, the information contained in the February 1988 cable concerning the drug trafficking allegation by the Nicaraguan exile against Bermudez and other Contra leaders was forwarded by CIA to the FBI.
No record has been found to indicate that either of the allegations received by CIA regarding Bermudez and drug trafficking was reported to the Congress.
Mario Jose Calero
Background. In the mid-1980s, Mario Calero, the brother of Contra leader Adolfo Calero, was the FDN's purchasing agent in New Orleans. An August 1985 cable to Headquarters reported that the FDN had contracted with a Honduran-registered airplane charter company named "Compania ORBE" to transport non-lethal aid from New Orleans to the FDN. The company was reported to be operating one DC-6. The cable indicated that FDN officials had become uneasy in dealing with ORBE officials because they charged the FDN unusually low rates, appeared to be overly eager to please and appeared to not be knowledgeable about certain aspects of the air charter business. As a result of these concerns, the FDN reportedly had decided that FDN personnel would not be allowed to accompany the DC-6 when it returned to the United States after each charter flight. Moreover, the cable indicated that Mario Calero had informed unnamed U.S. law enforcement officials that the ORBE aircraft was only under charter by the FDN when it carried FDN cargo from New Orleans to Honduras, and was not under FDN charter on its return flights to the United States.
- In July 1988, Mario Calero and six other individuals were indicted in Miami, Florida, for Neutrality Act violations involving arms smuggling. However, the charges against Calero and five of the six other defendants were dismissed in July 1989.
Allegations of Drug Trafficking. A February 1986 cable to Headquarters reported an allegation that Mario Calero was engaged in drug trafficking. No specific details of the alleged drug trafficking were provided, although the cable noted that the individual making the allegation provided it to an FDN supporter following a meeting with Eden Pastora. No information has been found to indicate that CIA took any action to investigate the validity of the allegation. The FDN supporter and the individual who reportedly made the allegation say they do not know of any information linking Mario Calero to drug trafficking.
An April 1988 cable to Headquarters reported that a person had been approached by several individuals, including Mario Calero, who were interested in locating an alternative airport for shipping supplies to the Contras. The individuals also reportedly indicated they had an unspecified association with CIA. The person who had been approached said that, although he had no basis for his suspicions, he was concerned that these persons might take advantage of his good name by sending illegal supplies to the Contras or engaging in drug trafficking.
In December 1985, a cable reported to Headquarters that the Associated Press planned to publish a story on the FDN that included a claim that Mario Calero was taking kickbacks on FDN arms purchases. The cable did not provide any specific information, however, regarding the nature and extent of the alleged kickbacks.
In December 1985, a cable informed Headquarters that rumors were circulating in the local Latin community to the effect that Mario Calero was personally profiting from U.S.-originated aid for the FDN that transited New Orleans and that CIA was aware of this. The cable also said that the FBI and U.S. Customs Service had received similar reports, some possibly generated by media inquiries regarding Calero's activities. The cable added that there was no information to substantiate the allegations and that there was no indication of any CIA contacts with Mario Calero in New Orleans.
A December 1985 response observed that the allegations may have been based on jealousy and speculation, especially with respect to Mario Calero's expanded activities as a purchasing agent acting on behalf of the DoS-sponsored Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office (NHAO).
CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. No information has been found to indicate that CIA took any action in response to allegations of drug trafficking by Calero. However, a November 1986 Headquarters cable warned that Mario Calero's poor reputation was a potential hindrance to the Contras:
Mario Calero has one of the most seamy reputations of all the people involved in the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance. Rightly or wrongly, he is seen as being up to his knees in corruption. Moreover, he is viewed as being nothing more than a hatchet man for the hardcore unreconstructed right of the FDN. In short, he is a symbol to our critics of all that is perceived to be rotten in the FDN. Whether or not this reputation is justified is immaterial: it is real.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. In March 1986, CIA responded to a trace request from the FBI by noting that it had received unconfirmed allegations that Calero had accepted kickbacks. Additionally, the CIA response stated that CIA would appreciate any information the FBI could provide regarding the allegations. No information has been found to indicate such a response from the FBI.
- No information has been found to indicate that Congress was informed that CIA had received drug trafficking allegations against Mario Calero. However, a June 12, 1985 routing slip from the DO to CIA's Comptroller contained, as an attachment, DO responses to a number of questions regarding the Contras that the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) had asked CIA on May 2, 1985. One question related to allegations of corruption by Contra officials. A portion of the DO response to that question stated:
There have been a number of allegations that Mario Calero may be skimming funds from NHAO but we have nothing to confirm it. The Agency is by law forbidden to engage in law enforcement activities in the U.S. . . . .
No information has been found to indicate the date and circumstances of CIA's conveyance of this information to the HAC.
Juan Ramon Rivas
- Background. Juan Rivas, whose war name was El Quiche, was a former Nicaraguan National Guard officer who joined the Contra resistance in 1981. Upon the organization of the FDN, he became the instructor of the first fighters to enter Nicaragua in July 1982. He later helped organize the Jorge Salazar Force, an FDN combat unit, and became its commander. By August 1986, Rivas had constructed a task force of five regional commands with a total of 5,000 combatants. He was selected to be Chief of Staff of the ERN/North in March 1988, the only candidate who apparently was acceptable to all the commanders.
- A CIA employee who dealt with the Contras from 1986 to 1988 says Rivas "was a subordinate of [ERN military commander] Enrique Bermudez and interfaced with representatives of the Agency as Enrique Bermudez would empower him to do so on any particular issue." In this regard Rivas was acting no differently than other Contra commanders.
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. According to a February 1989 cable to Headquarters, a Central American Station "was asked to check out a report in November 1988 received by the [U.S.] Embassy from DEA alleging" that Rivas was identical with a person of the same name who had reportedly escaped from a Colombian prison after being arrested on a drug trafficking charge.
- According to the February cable, a CIA contract officer noted Rivas had said he had deserted from the Nicaraguan National Guard in 1979 when the first combat with the FSLN began in southern Nicaragua. At that point, Rivas said he had relocated to Guatemala, acquired a false passport and shortly thereafter moved to Colombia to find work. Rivas reportedly said that he became involved in the drug trade at a low level--packaging drugs; transporting them within the city of Barranquilla, Colombia; and passing them to traffickers for overseas shipment. He claimed, however, that he did not personally smuggle drugs outside of Colombia. The Colombian authorities caught him, and he was sent to prison. Rivas, then 21 years of age, remained in prison for four or five months before escaping. He said that he then returned to Guatemala, decided not to return to the drug trade and joined the Nicaraguan resistance.
- The CIA independent contractor says pursuing this question with Rivas was very difficult, in part because Rivas was always surrounded by a lot of "gunmen." Thus, the independent contractor says he believed he might be at personal risk if he accused Rivas in their presence. Nonetheless, he says he attempted to verify the DEA information. The problem of the gunmen took some time to resolve, but eventually he was able to discuss the allegation with Rivas alone.
- The CIA independent contractor adds that Rivas had said that he had been involved in Colombia in taking drugs to ships in international waters. The CIA contract officer also says that Rivas told him he arranged the escape from the Colombian prison by paying a bribe.
- The CIA independent contractor says that he never saw Rivas again after their discussion. He states that he does not believe Rivas was involved in drug trafficking while working with the Contras. He notes that Rivas had a horse at the Yamales camp that was reputedly worth $100,000. However, he said that he does not believe the source of Rivas' funds was drug trafficking, but Rivas' family money and overcharging the Agency for supplies.
- As reported in a March 1989 cable to Headquarters, Bermudez said that, when Rivas joined the resistance forces:
. . . he had quite a bit of money. At the time [Rivas] had just broken a relationship with [an American] who was the daughter of a very rich US citizen and those who met [Rivas] at the time assumed his money came from the girl and/or her father. [Rivas] contributed most of his remaining resources to the FDN cause and has only a small ranch in Guatemala left from his earlier relationship. Some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.
- CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. Following receipt of the information the CIA contract officer obtained from Rivas, CIA briefed the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and the Deputy Chief of Mission. The February 1989 cable to Headquarters reported that Rivas' departure from the ERN would be "devastating," but that there appeared to be no other option.
- In February 1989, Headquarters responded and requested that Rivas' admissions be discussed with the DEA representative at the Embassy, who was to be asked to take no action at that time and to "advise him that [the CIA] will inform [DEA Headquarters] on his behalf when appropriate." The cable also noted that it presumed the Ambassador would support this position in discussions with the DEA representative in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.
- The cable also indicated that Headquarters was particularly interested in knowing whether the DEA representative was obliged to inform the Government of Colombia of the admissions and whether Rivas was on a DEA "watchlist." The cable also provided instructions to discuss Rivas' admissions with Enrique Bermudez and asked whether he had any prior knowledge of Rivas' drug connection. The cable contained a caution that it was important that no U.S. Government official encourage Rivas "to disappear" and that there were significant legal liabilities--not further explained--to providing Rivas any such advice or encouragement.
- In February 1989, a cable informed Headquarters that the Rivas case had been discussed with the DEA representative. The DEA representative reportedly said that there was no DEA action to be taken since the information concerning Rivas was "historic" and there was no indication of current trafficking by Rivas. The DEA representative also reportedly said that DEA had no obligation to inform the Government of Colombia and that Rivas was not on any DEA watchlist.
- On February 15, 1989, CATF sent a memorandum to Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) Richard Stolz outlining Rivas' background and his admissions of involvement in the drug trade in 1979. CATF proposed that, because of his importance to the Contras, Rivas be maintained as the Chief of Staff of ERN/North and that the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence (SSCI) be briefed. The CATF memorandum noted that:
. . . although this recommendation is not without political risk, the removal of Rivas, at this time, following the Central American Presidents' call for the dissolution of the ERN as an armed force, would adversely impact ERN morale and force integrity [sic] to an unquantifiable extent.
- A February 22, 1989 note for DDO Stolz from Deputy General Counsel for Operations John Rizzo stated that:
Under the circumstances, I do not believe that the existence of the 1979 drug charges requires us to remove Rivas as ERN/N[orth] Chief of Staff or otherwise disassociate ourselves from him. CIA regulations in this area focus solely on individuals currently in narcotics trafficking: we have to sever our relationship with anyone involved in trafficking to the United States, and we have to make a risk/benefit analysis about continuing to deal with anyone involved in trafficking outside the U.S. There is no indication that Rivas fits either category. What we have here is a single, relatively petty transgression in a foreign country that occurred a decade ago and that is apparently of no current interest to DEA.
(Underlining in original.)
- A March 1989 cable to Headquarters stated that the Rivas matter had been discussed with Bermudez the previous day. Reportedly, Rivas had already approached Bermudez and explained the problem. The cable noted that, according to Bermudez, Rivas indicated that he wished to resign from the resistance. Bermudez said he had calmed Rivas down and pointed out that his resignation at such a critical time would have "devastating affects [sic]." Rivas took some time off and then resumed his functions. He was, reportedly, waiting for guidance from Bermudez, "who recognizes the possibility of a scandal but does not want Rivas to leave."
- A March 1989 Headquarters cable noted that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Cresencio Arcos, along with the CATF Chief of Operations, had met with Bermudez in Washington. Arcos reportedly told Bermudez that Inter-American Affairs Assistant Secretary-Designate Bernard Aronson and Acting Inter-American Affairs Assistant Secretary Michael Kozak had decided that Rivas' admission of involvement in drug trafficking in 1979 necessitated his separation from the Contras as soon as possible. In order to prevent Rivas' departure from being viewed erroneously by ERN troops as a signal of imminent demobilization, Arcos advised Bermudez that Rivas should fade gradually from the scene. Bermudez agreed with this assessment and said that Rivas would be amenable to this approach as long as he had a way to earn a living.
- In March 1989, a cable informed Headquarters that the Station's COS, the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission agreed that recent media coverage of ERN human rights violations made the ERN more vulnerable to drug trafficking charges "no matter how far removed." As a result of this discussion, the Deputy Chief of Mission was instructed by the Ambassador to meet with Rivas as soon as possible and inform him that he must leave the ERN. The cable reported that the Deputy Chief of Mission was also to ask Rivas if he knew of anyone else in the ERN who had been involved in drug trafficking.
- According to an April 1989 cable to Headquarters, Rivas announced on March 29 his intention to resign for medical reasons.
- At some unspecified time in early 1989, most probably in late April, a CATF officer drafted a cable to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regarding an application by Rivas for U.S. Permanent Resident Alien (PRA) status. The cable draft described Rivas' involvement in drug trafficking in Colombia as well as his arrest, incarceration and escape. It also described Rivas' service with the Contras, noting that he had served with distinction and saying that the Agency had no evidence that Rivas had been involved with illegal drugs since 1979. The draft concluded with a request "that Rivas' service be taken into consideration at the time that his application for PRA status is reviewed."
- The version of the cable that was actually transmitted to INS and the FBI on May 6, 1989 omitted the request that Rivas' service with the Contras be considered when his application was reviewed. The cable did, however, include all pertinent information concerning Rivas' admission of his involvement in drug trafficking in 1979.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. As noted above, allegations of involvement in drug trafficking by Rivas were first brought to CIA's attention by the U.S. Embassy in November 1988 in the form of a request for further information concerning a DEA report. After confirmatory information was obtained from Rivas in late January 1989, it was shared almost immediately with the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission. It was then shared with the DEA representative. INS and FBI were informed by CIA of Rivas' past connection with drug trafficking on May 6, 1989 in connection with Rivas' application for PRA status.
- On March 15, 1989, a two-page memorandum prepared by CATF provided "talking points" for OCA to brief the HPSCI and SSCI regarding Rivas. The memorandum outlined Rivas' involvement in drug activities in Colombia in 1979, his arrest, incarceration and escape and briefly described his record as "the ERN/N[orth]'s most capable commander." It also noted that:
During the month of February 1989, Rivas departed from Yamales. In early March 1989 he was in Miami, Florida seeking U.S. residency for himself and for his wife . . . . Rivas is not on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) "watchlist," and, according to DEA, there is no indication that Rivas is currently involved in illicit drug activity. Further, DEA considers the information on Rivas "historical" and has no intention of informing the Colombian government about Rivas, nor would DEA normally do so.
- According to a March 15, 1989 OCA MFR signed by the OCA Deputy Director for Senate Affairs Robert Buckman, he briefed SSCI Staff member David Holliday on March 15 concerning Rivas and told him that the Department of State had determined that Rivas "should be removed from his post and that Resistance leaders agreed." The March 15 MFR also stated that Holliday had said "that he would inform the Committee. He did not regard this as a serious matter." A March 10, 1989 OCA MFR written by OCA Deputy Director for House Affairs Norm Gardner stated that HPSCI Staff member Mike O'Neil was briefed on March 16, 1989 and that O'Neil "appreciated the briefing but had no real comments or remarks to make."
- A March 28, 1989 CATF MFR reported a March 17, 1989 briefing on the Nicaragua program for HPSCI Staff members Dick Giza, Mike O'Neil, Duane Andrews, and Steve Nelson. The allegations of drug trafficking concerning Rivas were identified in the MFR as one of the topics of the briefing. CATF Chief of Operations (COPS) reportedly informed the Staff members that the Department of State had decided that Rivas would be "separated from the Resistance" and that Arcos had informed Bermudez of this decision on March 14. The COPS also reportedly told the Staff members that Rivas and his wife were applying for PRA status in the United States. In response to a question concerning U.S. Government support for Rivas, the COPS reportedly said that the CIA was not planning to assist in resettling Rivas.
- Background. Stedman Fagoth led the MISURASATA Indian Movement, a loose knit organization of Indians from Nicaragua's Atlantic coast area. Fagoth's efforts in 1981 to raise money on behalf of the MISURASATA among exiled Nicaraguans in Miami apparently brought him to CIA's attention. Agency records indicate that Fagoth exhibited erratic behavior.
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. A January 1985 cable asked Headquarters for any information pertaining to a U.S. citizen. According to the cable, the U.S. citizen had offered to provide DEA with information pertaining to alleged Sandinista drug trafficking. The U.S. citizen had reportedly claimed to DEA that he had an association with a group called "The American Freedom Fighters," which was actively providing various types of aid to "the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua."
- A January 1985 cable--citing the Defense Attaché Office and other U.S. Embassy reporting--responded that the U.S. citizen, among other things, had allegedly sought Fagoth's assistance in stealing boats from Nicaragua. This reportedly was part of an alleged plan by the U.S. citizen that called for taking the boats to Honduras where they would be loaded with guns and then moved onto Colombia, where the guns would be exchanged for narcotics for the U.S. market. Headquarters, in a January 1985 cable, responded that it had no information in its files pertaining to the U.S. citizen.
- In November 1987, a cable to Headquarters reported a KISAN official who was now a political rival of Fagoth's had said that Fagoth had suggested to him and others in 1982 or 1983 that they should go to Colombia to raise money for "the cause." According to this KISAN official, who claimed to have declined Fagoth's suggestion, the clear implication was that the trip would involve a drug deal of some sort. However, he said that a senior advisor to Fagoth at that time had agreed to the trip.
- A November 1987 cabled response expressed skepticism regarding the portion of the November report that pertained to the senior advisor. According to the cable:
Station finds it difficult to believe that [the senior advisor] would cooperate with [Fagoth] and go to Colombia on a drug deal to make extra money for the cause, especially since [the senior advisor] does not particularly care for or trust [Fagoth]
- An April 1988 cable to Headquarters stated that the senior advisor had said "in an effort to further denigrate [Fagoth]" that Fagoth had approached him in 1984 with a scheme to kill Colombian cocaine traffickers who were moving through "the Yucatan" to the United States and to seize the drugs they were carrying. The proceeds from the stolen cocaine reportedly were to go to the "Indian movement." The senior advisor claimed to have declined the offer, but believed that Fagoth and other associates probably had consummated the scheme. The senior advisor also claimed that Fagoth—along with two Honduran military officers—had sold marijuana or other drugs.
- CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking No information has been found to indicate that CIA followed up or pursued the drug-related allegations involving Fagoth to determine their validity.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. Agency records indicate that CIA was in contact with the FBI regarding Fagoth.
- On July 7, 1987, CIA sent to the DoS copies of a summary report of "questionable activities on the part of Stedman Fagoth." This report included information from Agency records pertaining to alleged human rights abuses and the theft of U.S. Government-provided funds and materials by Fagoth that might "bear on his eligibility to receive [U.S.] support." The report also cited Fagoth's violence in dealing with his Miskito rivals and the charges of corruption linked to him. The report contained no references to the January 1985 allegations relating to Fagoth's possible involvement in a drug trafficking scheme with the U.S. citizen. The report predated the CIA's receipt--in November 1987 and April 1988--of additional drug-related allegations against Fagoth.
- No information has been found to indicate that allegations of drug trafficking involvement by Fagoth were shared with the Congress.
- Background. Roger Herman Hernandez, a Nicaraguan citizen, was political director of KISAN, a resistance organization composed mainly of Indians and Creoles that operated on the Atlantic coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. He was a strong supporter of U.S. policy in the region. By 1990, he was increasingly involved in the effort to reestablish democracy in the Atlantic coast region
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. A December 1986 Tegucigalpa U.S. Embassy telegram reported that, according to an Embassy source, Herman and the Haylock family of Roatan Island in Honduras were smuggling cocaine into the United States. Herman had reportedly obtained cocaine from Nicaragua and used Hondurans who were friendly to KISAN or unidentified U.S. personnel to carry it in small quantities to his brother in Miami. The Embassy source also reportedly claimed that on two occasions the Nicaraguan diplomatic pouch had been used for this purpose and that the Haylocks were using one of their boats, originally modified to smuggle weapons to KISAN, to traffic in cocaine.
- The Embassy cable also noted that the Embassy could not vouch for the credibility of the source, and that Embassy checks revealed the source's colleagues were concerned that the source was "paranoid and mentally impaired." The cable also noted that the allegations against Herman may reflect "factional dissension within KISAN."
- Agency Response to Allegations Of Drug Trafficking. The December 6, 1986 allegations against Herman were included in a January 1987 Interagency Assessment regarding the Contras and drug trafficking that was prepared by CIA for the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. A February 9, 1987 memorandum to CATF Chief Fiers from Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams proposed that CIA "formally ask DEA and any other appropriate agencies to undertake an investigation of [the] information [that had been] developed by the Agency" on Herman.
- Fiers responded in an undated memorandum to Abrams that CATF had directed the field to undertake a full investigation, which would include questioning by CIA Security, as soon as the Agency had learned of the allegations against Herman. The Fiers memorandum said that, when the results of this investigation were received, "should there be any questions in our minds that Mr. Herman has any connections with drug smuggling, it will be raised with the Interagency Group/Nicaragua."
- A CIA Security interview was conducted with Herman in February 1987. Based on this interview, CIA Security determined it was highly probable that Herman was involved in drug trafficking. In further security processing in May 1987, Herman said that he was confused over the term "trafficking." He reportedly said that he thought "trafficking" referred to personal use of illegal drugs. After this interview, CIA Security did not have concerns about Herman and drug trafficking.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. No information has been found to indicate that CIA reported the results of its inquiries into the drug trafficking allegations against Herman to Abrams or the Interagency Group.
- The drug allegations against Herman were included in the January 1987 Memorandum prepared for Assistant Secretary of State Abramowitz. No information has been found to indicate that CIA acquired any other information linking Herman to drug trafficking.
- No information has been found to indicate that CIA advised Congress of the Embassy source's allegations regarding Herman or the results of CIA inquiries in response to those allegations.
- Background. A March 1981 cable to Headquarters identified Pinel (also spelled Pinell), a.k.a. "Chatan," as a "leader of one counterrevolutionary group in Honduras" and cited his views of paramilitary training options. A May 1981 cable to Headquarters concerning Nicaraguan counterrevolutionary groups made reference to "a smaller exile group under the leadership of Sebastian 'Chatan' Pinel." A March 1982 cable to Headquarters reported on a Contra-related meeting in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, that was held at a house that "belongs to Sebastian Pinell Chatan [sic], a Nica[raguan] Contra sympathizer."
- A December 1980 cable to Headquarters regarding Sandinista deployments said, "There is a Sebastian 'Chatan' Pinel resident in Tegucigalpa and known ... as reputedly an anti-FSLN activist." A March 1981 cable to Headquarters that was sent in response to information regarding another Contra personality stated: "Sebastian Pinel, one of subject's comrades, is known, although extent of his involvement in counterrevolution [is] somewhat vague."
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. A February 1985 Headquarters cable to DEA indicated that a source had said that Sebastian Pinel--described as a Nicaraguan exile living in Buena Park, California--may be involved in the dealing of cocaine. The cable also said that Pinel was reported by the source to be in Spain and that, although Pinel was reportedly "broke," he "may be on the verge of a major drug deal." The cable also said that Pinel was a "partner" and "best friend" of Horacio Pereira, a known drug trafficker.(22) No information has been found to indicate the identity of the source of this information or the circumstances under which the information was obtained by CIA.
- CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. Headquarters sent a cable to DEA in February 1985 reporting the alleged drug trafficking activities by Pinel.
- Information Sharing With Other U.S. Government Entities. The February 1985 Headquarters cable to DEA provided information to DEA regarding alleged drug trafficking activities by Pinel. No information has been found to indicate CIA informed Congress regarding Pinel's alleged drug trafficking activities.
Arnoldo Jose Arana
- Background. Arnoldo Jose Arana Garcia, also known as Frank Arana, was born in Nicaragua and held U.S. Permanent Resident Alien status during the Contra war period. Arana had been an officer in the Nicaraguan National Guard. Following the Sandinistas' overthrow of the Somoza regime, Arana emigrated to the United States. He joined the FDN's Special Air Branch in March 1983 and was identified in an October 1985 cable as Chief of Operations of the FDN air arm. A November 1985 cable from Headquarters indicated that Arana was the FDN's press officer.(23) A May, 1989 cable indicated that Arana held a senior position in the ERN/North leadership.
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. In April 1983, the Agency was informed by the FBI in response to a CIA trace request that Arana was under criminal investigation by a U.S. "presidential" task force on narcotics. No additional details were provided by the FBI at that time.
- A November 1985 Headquarters cable indicated that the Immigration and Naturalization Service believed that some members of Arana's family "may be in jail on drug charges." An FBI memorandum dated January 23, 1986 indicated that Arana was "alleged to be the primary pilot in a drug smuggling enterprise" involving his brothers and others. However, the FBI report noted that " . . . to date, there has been no prosecutive action." On May 14, 1987, DEA responded to a May Agency trace request and indicated that Arana had planned to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America in October 1983.
- A May 1989 cable reported that ERN/North Air Force Commander Julio Gomez--who had previously held the same position in the FDN as had Arana-- said that "he always had doubts about Arana's activities." Gomez also claimed, however, that he had received a letter from a Texas police department indicating that an investigation into Arana's activities had revealed nothing illegal.
- The May cable also reported that Gomez had stated that the media in Texas had recently reported allegations of drug smuggling in connection with a helicopter ferry flight from Tegucigalpa to Brownsville, Texas. Arana was reportedly the pilot, and the helicopter was owned by Jose Perez. Gomez said that Arana and Perez visited the DEA office in Tegucigalpa to clear up the matter once they learned of the allegations. Gomez reportedly believed that the purpose of the flight was to get the helicopter to the United States where it could be dismantled and shipped to a further destination in the United States or Canada. He did not know whether the drug allegations were "well-founded."
- According to a June 1989 cable to Headquarters, CIA officers met with local DEA officers on June 14 in an effort to assess Gomez' story about the helicopter flight. Following this meeting, the cable reported, the DEA officers had confirmed that Arana had visited their offices in early May 1989 with Manuel Perez, Jose's brother. The cable reported that information from the DEA office in Texas seemed to clear Arana in the Brownsville incident, and DEA "thought it a closed case." The cable added, however, that DEA had uncovered additional information of possible drug trafficking involving the Perez brothers and that DEA believed, if "Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty." The Perez brothers were the owners of record of SETCO--a small air services company that had been formed by Juan Matta Ballesteros, a convicted cocaine kingpin, according to DEA and U.S. Customs.
- CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. As mentioned earlier, the FBI advised CIA in April 1983 that Arana was under investigation by a presidential task force on narcotics. Between September 1983 and December 1985, the Agency requested periodic updates from the FBI regarding the Arana investigation in an effort to resolve the allegations. The FBI responded on January 23, 1986 that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug smuggling enterprise. No information has been found to indicate that the FBI provided other updates to the Agency during this time. In 1988, the Agency twice requested updates concerning the Arana investigation from the FBI. No information has been found to indicate that the FBI provided the requested updates to the Agency.
- An unsigned, handwritten note was attached to the May 1989 cable that identified Arana as a senior member of the ERN/North leadership. The note stated: "Arnold Arana former Guardian National [sic]--still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem."
- As to whether CIA should have pressed the FDN (ERN/North) to expel Arana because of the task force on narcotics investigation, CATF compliance officer Louis Dupart says that "an investigation is not proof of wrong-doing." Although Octaviano Cesar was expelled from UNO for suspected involvement in drug trafficking as a result of CIA concerns, Dupart says that the Cesar case was different because CIA Security believed it was highly probable Cesar was involved in drug trafficking.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. The June 1989 cable reporting on the meeting with local DEA officers regarding the drug trafficking allegations against Arana indicated that CIA was working closely with DEA on "several issues." No information has been found to indicate the nature, extent, or results of this cooperation as it pertained to Arana.
- No information has been found to indicate that the Agency provided information to Congress regarding allegations of Arana's involvement in drug trafficking. According to the official congressional transcript of a CIA briefing to SSCI Staff members on July 31, 1987, CATF Chief Fiers stated that "[CIA has] never found any evidence indicating that the FDN or those around the Northern Front, as it is known today, had been involved in cocaine or any drug dealings, and we have looked very closely at that." According to that transcript, Fiers did not mention that CATF had been informed by Agency counterintelligence personnel on May 21, 1987 that Arana--an FDN official--was the subject of a presidential task force on narcotics investigation.
- Fiers' written response to questions states that he was not aware that Arana was the subject of a federal narcotics investigation. Moreover, his response states that:
Since my beginning asociation [sic] with the Central America program up until being shown information about Arana by the IG, it was my firm belief that no member of the FDN known to me was the subject of drug smuggling allegations. (I was aware, however, that Arana was not a productive pilot, . . . . and spent too much time in Miami.)
Jose Francisco Cardenal/Bergman Arguello/Eduard Jose Sacasa-Urouyo/Rolando Murillo/Juan Savala (or Zavala)/Renato Pena/Roger J. Ramiro
- Jose Francisco Cardenal: Background. CIA records indicate that Cardenal, a former Vice President of the Nicaraguan Government Council of State, arrived in Miami, Florida, sometime in May 1980 after having left Nicaragua as an opponent of the Sandinista Government. According to an August 1982 cable to Headquarters , Cardenal was described as one of the early leaders of UDN/FARN "which splic [sic] from the ADREN group in Sept 80 [sic] and member of one of the Nicaraguan counterrevolutionary groups in March 81."
- According to a September 1982 cable:
[Cardenal] is at present travelling extensively to try and unify various groups and factions of Nicaraguan exiles into a common front. He has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Nicaraguan personalities and family histories which makes him especially adept at the establishment of relationships and political ties. An obsticleis [sic] the military arm of the [Contras], whose officials are jealous of their prerogatives, and not enthusiastic about coalitions or common fromts [sic]. The plans are to overcome that hostility, bring about a unification of factions and groups for the overthrow of the Sandinista regime and the installation of a democratic governemt [sic].
- According to a January 1983 cable to Headquarters Cardenal was ousted from the FDN over political differences with the FDN leadership. Following his ouster, Cardenal attempted to organize some of his followers into a rival organization--the Nicaraguan Insurrection Front--without success. According to a March 1983 cable, Headquarters reported that Cardenal "no longer holds any leadership position in any exile opposition organization."
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. An October 1982 cable to CIA Headquarters reported that an informant in the local Nicaraguan exile community had provided information to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that indicated that Cardenal and other Contra-related individuals might be linked to drug trafficking:
On 20 October 1982, an [INS] officer called . . . . to relay information he had received from an informant in the Nicaraguan exile community in the San Francisco area. According to this informant, there are indications of links between [a specific U.S.-based religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups. These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms, which then are shipped to Nicaragua. A meeting on this matter is scheduled to be held in Costa Rica "within one month." Two names the [INS] informant has associated with this matter are Bergman Arguello, a UDN member and exile living in San Francisco, and Chicano Cardenal, resident of Nicaragua. Cardenal was in San Francisco the week of 11 October 1981 [sic] to speak at a freedom rally sponsored by a Cuban freedom group with reported links to Omega 7.
The [INS] officer stated that he had called [the FBI], but was told that nothing could be done as the responsible agent was away on TDY for an uncertain period of time. His call to [CIA] was prompted by the report of a meeting in Costa Rica within the month. We have confirmed that the [FBI] agent is indeed away for an unspecified period of time and that he is the only one who could act on this matter.
In view of para[graph] 2 above, is there anything that should [be done] with the information reported in para[graph] 1? The [INS] officer described his informant as quite reliable, although he has no independent means of verifying the informant's information. Both the [INS] officer and his informant are available to provide further information if needed.
- CIA Response to Allegations of Drug Trafficking. An October 1982 Headquarters cable responded to the October report and request for advice by stating:
If there is good reason to believe that the allegations contained in para[graph] 1 . . . . may have some basis of fact, [Headquarters] would be interested in investigating them further. Request . . . . recontact [with] the [INS] officer in order to attempt to determine the following information:
A. An evaluation of the [INS] source's access to this information. Did he learn it from direct involvement with the individuals named or from a third source? [Please] provide identity of source if available.
B. Is the date mentioned in the last sentence of para[graph] 1 . . . (11 October 81) correct, or did the source mean 1982?
C. Can the source provide any additional details regarding the alleged meeting to take place in Costa Rica? We would be interested in knowing who is scheduled to attend and under what auspices it is to be held?
- In a November 1982 cable to CIA Headquarters, a response stated:
1. While the thread of activities reported in [the October 1982 cable] and in this message leads abroad and involves several aspects of intelligence interest, in responding to [Headquarters] request for information we are discussing the alleged activities of several U.S. persons and verging on reporting of information which is more properly in the purview of U.S. law engorcement [sic] agencies. In drafting response to this message, request [Headquarters] comment on this aspect of our reporting so that we may provide all useful assistance within the limits of our charter re[garding] U.S. persons.
. . . .
3. According to the [INS] source, the UDN/FDN meeting in Costa Rica is scheduled to take place within the next three weeks. It was implied to [INS] source that the meeting will be a harbinger of future violence (no further information). Although the meeting is supposed to be secret, cameras will be allowed at the meeting. . . . The following also are expected to attend:
Bergman Arguello Galo, . . . ; applicant for political asylum;
Eden Pastora, "Commandante Zero";
Eduard Jose Sacasa-Urouyo, . . . ; applicant for political asylum;
Jose Rolando Murillo, . . . ; applicant for political asylum;
and two U.S. persons.
Renato Pena, . . . ; applicant for political asylum;
and three others named by [INS] source but believed to be U.S. persons.
. . . .
6. In separate contacts with [INS], representatives of the [specific U.S.-based religious organization] have mentioned the [organization's] involvement with anti-Nicaraguan government groups. INS does not know if [the organization's] representatives will be present at the Costa Rica meeting, although [INS] assumes that some [organization] representatives will attend. [INS] officer noted that recently, a group of [organization] members from Guatemala and the Dominican Republic was in Seattle in transit to Honduras.
7. The correct date for the San Francisco meeting sponsored by the Coalition for the Free World is 17 September 1982. Another meeting sponsored by this group is scheduled for 4 November 1982. Nicaraguan and [specific religious organization] groups are members of the coalition.
. . . .
- In November 1982, CIA Headquarters replied in a cable that stated:
1. Appreciate follow-up information on the subject of alleged Nicaraguan exile activities. [Headquarters] is understanding of . . . . position in [paragraph 1 of November . . . , 1982 cable]. In light of the apparent involvement of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further. [Headquarters] will affect [sic] coordination as necessary with [FBI] on this case; assume [INS] will make this and any additional information on the subject available to [FBI] San Francisco.
. . . .
- A November 1982 cable to CIA Headquarters reported that:
Per [the November 1982 Headquarters cable], we have contacted [INS] officer and asked him to ensure that [FBI] is kept advised of INS-acquired information on alleged Nicaraguan exile activities. [INS] officer stressed that he has offered the information to [FBI] several times, but has been rebuffed. He will try again, nevertheless.
Since [the other November 1982 cable], [INS] source offered additional information, which may be of interest to you: during the week of 1 November 1982, Eden Pastora flew from Tegucigalpa to San Jose, Costa Rica. Canadian Consul-General in Costa Rica was on the same plane and recognized Pastora. [INS] source has been told that Juan Savala is head of the UDN/FDN training camp in Costa Rica near Lake Nicaragua. . . . During a meeting held in San Francisco on 4 November 1982, a U.S. person known to be affiliated with the Cuban Independence Movement, CID, stated that Eden Pastora will split with the UDN/FDN because of its alleged [CIA] ties. On the other hand, Fernando Chamorro, known as "El Negro," wishes to make contact with CIA.
We will have no further contact with [INS] on this matter unless advised otherwise by [Headquarters].
- No information has been found to indicate whether a meeting in fact took place in Costa Rica to discuss an exchange of narcotics for arms as described in the October 1982 cable. However, a November 1982 Headquarters cable discussed the alleged meeting and stated:
1. It is HQS opinion that much of information contained in [the October 1982 and November 1982 cables] simply does not make sense (i.e., UDN/FDN cooperation, need to obtain armament through illegal means, shipment of arms to Nicaragua, involvement with the [specific U.S.-based religious organization]). We see a distinct possibility that the [INS] source was either intentionally or unintentionally misinformed. However, since the information was surfaced by another [U.S. Government] agency and may return to haunt us, feel we must try to confirm or refute the information if possible. To best [anyone's] knowledge, have the [Contras] scheduled any meeting in the next few weeks? If so, what information do you have regarding the attendees? Do you have any other information which might relate to contents of [referenced messages].
. . . .
- A November 1982 response to Headquarters reported that:
. . . . On 16 November, [Eden Pastora] has dispatched Carlos Coronel and Arturo Cruz, Jr. to U.S. for series of meetings, among them meeting with [FRS] supporters in San Francisco.
No record has been found to indicate that Headquarters was provided with any additional information in response to the November Headquarters cable. Nevertheless, CIA records do indicate that Cardenal was in San Jose, Costa Rica, from around October 30 or 31, 1982 until November 5, 1982 and again from around December 27 to December 31, 1982 for meetings with Contra leaders. No information has been found to indicate that these meetings pertained to any exchange of narcotics for arms. Moreover, no information has been found to indicate what contacts, if any, Cardenal may have had with representatives of the specific U.S.-based religious organization.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. A January 1981 cable from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) requested that CIA provide ATF with "brief background info[rmation] and any derogatory information" regarding Cardenal from CIA files. According to the ATF cable, Cardenal "is believed to be involved in violations of U.S. criminal laws under jurisdiction of ATF."
- In a February 1981 cable to ATF in response to the January 30 cable, CIA provided biographical information regarding Cardenal and included information that Cardenal "was in contact with a group of Nicaraguans who are preparing an invasion of Nicaragua from Honduras and Costa Rica." The cable also referred the ATF to the FBI "for possible information on subject."
- Moreover, a February 1981 CIA cable to ATF in response to "your telephonic request dated 17 February 1981" informed ATF that:
. . . .
2. The files of the Directorate of Operations contain no additional information which would aid in the assessment of subject. Furthermore, this Directorate has no interest in Cardenal whatsoever.
- In a March 23, 1981 cable to CIA, the FBI reported that it was:
. . . conducting a sensitive Neutrality Act investigation which may involve a Nicaraguan national, Francesco [sic] Jose Cardenal and an American citizen. Also possibly involved are two groups, the Nicaraguan Democratic Union and the Nicaraguan Armed Revolutionary Forces, both believed to be headquartered in Nicaragua with possible ties to the United States.
In its cable, the FBI requested that CIA furnish it with any information from its files pertaining to the two individuals and groups.
- A March 1981 CIA cabled response provided the FBI with the same information that had been provided in February 1981 to ATF. The cable also included information that Cardenal had been unsuccessful in an attempt to obtain weapons and financial support from the El Salvador Government. Moreover, the cable stated that:
- In an April 1981 cable to CIA, the FBI reported that it was involved in a "pending investigation concerning possible violation of the Neutrality Act by Jose Fransesco [sic] Cardenal and others." According to the cable, the FBI--citing the information that CIA had provided in the March 25 cable--reported that a consensually monitored conversation had taken place between Cardenal and "a private individual cooperating with this Bureau" and that:
The FBI feels this [conversation] may refer to your information, and your Agency should be aware the above conversation becoming [sic] public record if prosecution is forthcoming. The cooperation and the individual's identity will become public inasmuch as he/she has agreed to testify.
- In its August 23, 1982 cable response to CIA, the FBI reported that:
- In a memorandum to CIA dated March 8, 1985, the FBI requested a "name check request" on Cardenal. A March 1985 CIA cable to the FBI provided biographical information regarding Cardenal and information that Cardenal had been--according to an undated March 1983 report--organizing "the Nicaraguan insurrectional front to mobilize popular support against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua." In addition, the cable stated that Cardenal "has shown a disregard for security by indiscriminately divulging details of confidential information."
- Bergman Arguello Galo: Background. According to the October 1982 cable, an INS informant described Arguello as a UDN representative who was to attend a secret meeting in Costa Rica to discuss a narcotics for arms exchange. Moreover, the November 1982 cable indicated that Arguello was the individual who had discussed the purported narcotics for arms exchange.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. According to a February 11, 1983 memorandum from CIA's OGC to the INS regarding Arguello:
The Agency requests that you arrange for an asylum interview for the subject [sic] in your Miami District Office, on an immediate basis. We ask that the interview be conducted during the week of 14 February 1983.
It is our understanding that the subject has already submitted an application. On the chance that he has not, or that it cannot be located, we will instruct the subject to obtain new forms, complete them, and bring them to the interview.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
- No information has been found to indicate any INS response to the February 11 OGC memorandum. An INS Biographic Information Form G-325A signed by Arguello on "10-11-84" included a notation under "Other Agency Use" that stated "No Derogatory Information" and the date "14 Jan 85."
- On March 18, 1983, CIA requested that the FBI conduct "priority traces" on Arguello. A March 30, 1983 CATF memorandum from the FBI stated that " . . . FBI has no record on [Arguello]."
- Eden Pastora: Background. Eden Pastora is described in the November 1982 cable as a UDN representative who was to attend the secret meeting in Costa Rica regarding an exchange of narcotics for arms. No information has been found to indicate that Pastora attended such a meeting, although the November 1982 cable discussed earlier indicated that Pastora flew from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to San Jose, Costa Rica, "during the week of 1 November."
- Eduardo Jose Sacasa-Urouyo: Background. "Eduard" Sacasa was described in the November 1982 cable as a UDN representative who was to attend the secret meeting in Costa Rica regarding an exchange of narcotics for arms. CIA records indicate that an individual named Eduardo Sacasa-Urouyo was associated with the UDN during the 1980s and was a close associate of Fernando Chamorro. Other than the November cable, no information has been found to link Sacasa with drug trafficking.
- Rolando Murillo Escobar: Background. Murillo was described in the November 1982 cable as a UDN representative who was to attend the secret meeting in Costa Rica regarding an exchange of narcotics for arms. No other information has been found to link Murillo with drug trafficking.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. According to a March 1983 CIA cable to the FBI that requested information in FBI files regarding Murillo, Murillo was described as "a former member of the Nicaraguan National Guard and former resident of the San Francisco area." Murillo reportedly was living in Costa Rica, according to the cable. A memorandum dated March 30, 1983 stated that "FBI has no record on subject."
- Juan Savala/Zavala Mora: Background. Juan Savala was described in the November 1982 cable as "head of the UDN/FDN training camp in Costa Rica" where the INS informant claimed the secret meeting would take place to discuss an exchange of narcotics for arms. The November cable did not, however, indicate what role--if any--Savala would play at the meeting.
- CIA records indicate that a "Juan Zavala Mora" was a member of the UDN during the 1980s and was a close friend of Fernando Chamorro.
- No other information has been found to indicate that Savala/Zavala was suspected of drug trafficking or that he was related to--or otherwise linked to--Julio Zavala who, in 1983, was arrested in connection with The Frogman Case in San Francisco.
- Roger J. Ramiro: Background. According to the November 1982 cable, Ramiro was described by INS as a "known narcotics violator who recently was indicted on a narcotics charge in Orange County, California." As reported in the cable, Bergman Arguello had "mentioned" Ramiro's name in connection with the alleged narcotics for arms exchange. No information has been found to link Ramiro with drug trafficking.
- Renato Pena Cabrera: Background. Pena, a convicted drug trafficker, was described in the November 1982 cable as an FDN representative who was to attend the secret meeting in Costa Rica regarding an exchange of narcotics for arms.
- Renato Pena says that he associated with Norwin Meneses. Pena also claims to have participated in Contra-related activities in the United States from 1982-1984 that were unrelated to his drug trafficking activities. Pena says that he served as an official, but unpaid, representative of the FDN political wing in northern California from the end of 1982 until mid-1984, having been appointed to that position by Edgar Chamorro. According to Pena, his duties on behalf of the FDN were related to public relations and distributing Contra-related literature to sympathizers. He claims that his activities on behalf of the FDN were all conducted in the United States and that he never traveled outside of the United States because of his immigration status as a political asylum applicant. Pena says that Norwin Meneses had Contra-related dealings with FDN official Enrique Bermudez. According to Pena, the specific U.S.-based religious organization that was allegedly involved with the Contras and drug trafficking was an FDN political ally that provided only humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan refugees and logistical support for Contra-related rallies, such as printing services and portable stages.
- Pena says that his personal drug trafficking activities were unrelated to the Contras, but claims that the Contras must have had alternative sources of funding since the money that the Contras received from the U.S. Government was "peanuts." Pena says that a Colombian associate of Meneses's named "Carlos" told Pena in "general" terms that portions of the proceeds from the sale of the cocaine Pena brought to San Francisco were going to the Contras. According to Pena, "Carlos" said something to the effect that "we are helping your cause with this drug thing . . . we are helping your organization a lot." Pena said "Carlos" did not provide him with any further information. "Carlos" has not been identified.
- Pena says that, when he was removed from his FDN position in mid-1984--possibly because Contra officials suspected him of drug trafficking--and replaced by a U.S. citizen, he was appointed to be the "military representative" to the FDN in San Francisco. He says this appointment occurred "in part because of Norwin Meneses's close relationship with [Enrique] Bermudez."
- The FDN representative in San Francisco who replaced Pena--who is a naturalized citizen who immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua in 1963--was active in Contra-related affairs in San Francisco during the 1980s. He says he first became involved with the Contras after an early 1980s visit to San Francisco by Contra leader Fernando Chamorro in which Chamorro asked for volunteers to support anti-Sandinista activities. On July 23, 1986, he says he was appointed to be the official FDN representative in San Francisco. Prior to his appointment, he says the FDN did not have an officially authorized representative in San Francisco. In 1986, the FDN opened an office at the Flood Building on Market Street in San Francisco with $5,000 provided by the FDN office in Miami. However, the office was closed some six months later because it was too expensive to maintain.
- The FDN representative in San Francisco who replaced Pena says that the Nicaraguan community in San Francisco was poor and the Sandinistas had considerable support there. "San Francisco was a Sandinista town," he asserts. He states that the net amount of funds raised for the Contras from the San Francisco community throughout the years was about $5,000. According to the FDN representative, the Contra support movement did not even have sufficient funds to sustain a mailing of brochures and other correspondence. He adds that people did not want to be on a list of Contra supporters for fear that the list would fall into the hands of the Sandinistas and cause difficulties for them or their families. As he recalls, the FDN did, however, make several radio announcements on local Spanish language radio stations. He says that membership in the San Francisco FDN was handled informally. Individuals who wanted to support the FDN could just attend meetings, dinners and participate in other related events.
- The FDN representative who replaced Pena says his activities on behalf of the Contras in San Francisco consisted primarily of helping to coordinate Contra fund raising dinners and meetings. He says he often used his personal funds as security deposits at the hotels and other locations where these functions were to be held. On one occasion, he says he made up an $1,800 shortfall out of his own pocket when a catered dinner at a local restaurant or hotel was under-subscribed.
- The FDN representative in San Francisco who replaced Pena says Renato Pena was not the official FDN representative in San Francisco, having never been appointed by the FDN directorate to any position. Instead, he says Pena was the self-appointed representative for the "military section" of the FDN. He says he learned of Pena's drug-related arrest six months after it occurred. He says some people in the FDN in San Francisco were critical of Pena and did not want Pena to continue his association with the movement after the arrest. However, Pena was never formally expelled from the FDN. According to Pena's successor, Pena sublet an office in San Francisco from drug trafficker Danilo Blandon's sister. Blandon's sister attended some FDN meetings in San Francisco.
- The FDN representative in San Francisco who replaced Pena believes that drug trafficker Norwin Meneses probably knew Enrique Bermudez since Meneses's brother and Bermudez had been senior Somoza officials. He says he met Norwin Meneses "a couple of times" when Meneses attended FDN support meetings in San Francisco. However, Meneses was never a member of the FDN, and he says he does not know whether Meneses provided funds, goods, or supplies to the Contras. He says he usually recognized most of the persons at the FDN meetings, since most of them lived in the community. He says he noticed when new persons or strangers attended the meetings, commenting that "Sandinistas probably also attended" the meetings. Average attendance at an FDN meeting, he says, might be 10 to 15 persons.
- The FDN representative in San Francisco who replaced Pena says he has no knowledge that Contra organizations--or individuals acting on behalf of the Contras--engaged in drug trafficking. However, he comments that "People that did [engage in drug trafficking] may have been taking advantage of the revolution--that is my opinion."
Posted: Apr 26, 2007 01:42 PM
Last Updated: Apr 26, 2007 01:42 PM